Vols invest heavily in quirky schedule adjustments

Marvin Westwestwords

Let us take timeout from guessing how big will be Evan Russell’s lawsuit against ESPN and talk football money for a few minutes.

Tennessee has found a new investment opportunity – schedule adjustments. So far, a mere $3.5 million is on the table. If all goes well, Dr. Danny will get some of that back. At least that is how my investments go.

The Vols paid $500,000 out of pocket to Army for not playing this season. Dave Hart, unaware of the Black Knights’ dangerous triple-option offense, scheduled the game for mid-September.

Former coach Phillip Fulmer, next athletic director after John Currie’s sudden exit, and Jeremy Pruitt, next coach after Butch was dispatched and Currie had searched to and fro for a replacement, saw the Tennessee-Army matchup for what it was, patriotic, intriguing and extremely hazardous.

Fulmer and Pruitt or the other way around launched the escape process.

Danny White and Josh Heupel, brought in to make other repairs, recognized schedule revision as a good idea. The athletics director snapped his fingers and, presto, Army went away. Mission accomplished. Bring on Akron.

In alphabet soup, Akron comes before Army. The Zips, now guided by former Mississippi State coach Joe Moorhead, will visit Neyland Stadium for one million. To foster friendship, consider ordering a sweatshirt or cap. Akron has new logos.

What do you mean why bother? Logos are a big deal.

School president Gary L. Miller said he is “very gratified by the overwhelmingly favorable response …

“This new mark pays homage to the university’s heritage and its unbreakable connection with the city of Akron and presents a strong image that reflects our determination to rise and excel.”

You need to know TV godfathers are not particularly impressed with Akron or the new logos. The game will go on SEC Network+.

There were several reasons to avoid going to Provo, Utah, to play Brigham Young next year. A lot of Vol fans were going to miss the game. Those who planned to go understood restrictions. They were warned that beer would be hard to find in and around the arena.

White found a favorable option, better than Akron for Army, just buy out BYU for two mil, schedule Virginia at a perfectly neutral site, Nashville, and keep the change. ESPN hasn’t had many happy faces lately but this is one. The move also improved Tennessee recruiting chances. The Vols don’t attract a lot of talent from Utah.

This Tennessee football schedule has many sidelights. The opener against Ball State was moved up two nights to Sept. 1 for greater TV exposure. To heck with out-of-town paying customers who will miss two days of work.

Contrary to rumor, the early start will not provide market monopoly or an advantage over second foe Pittsburgh. The Panthers are going to play West Virginia that Thursday.

Hmmm, which do you suppose will be the early game of the week? Which will draw the larger audience? Is Hendon Hooker enough to carry the show?

As for genuine SEC early birds, Vanderbilt plays at Hawaii on Aug. 27. Remember the theme – money. And beauty, beaches that is.

Tennessee-Pitt will be the second half of the Johnny Majors Classic with decorations and speeches – and souvenirs for sale. Majors, all-American tailback, College Hall of Fame, won a national championship as Pitt coach. He took a pay cut to come home. He became a colorful coach for the Volunteers but made some waves and didn’t win quite enough games.

John was cast adrift after 16 years. His record against Alabama was 4-12 but Pitt took him back. History did not repeat itself but the memory of Majors is treasured both places.

Pittsburgh won in Knoxville last year, 41-34. The Vols should have won. They started hot, blocked a punt, took a 10-0 lead, squandered momentum, gave up 27 points in the second quarter, battled back but failed to capitalize.

With a chance to tie or go ahead by a point, they chose a strange alignment and lost a yard on fourth-and-1 at the Pitt 3. They left plenty of room for improvement. They were penalized eight times for 95 yards in the first half.

Florida is game 4. Here is the short scouting report: The Gators have defeated the Vols 16 times in their last 17 meetings.

This is our first best opportunity to reverse the trend. There is a reason Florida has a new coach.

Tennessee will be heavily favored over open date. Heupel can take a few minutes off, get paid for speaking in Memphis and do a little recruiting going and coming.

Gridiron action resumes on Oct. 8. LSU has a new coach, Brian Kelly, purchased from Notre Dame. He cost a few million more than Florida is paying Billy Napier.

Alabama expects to have a stronger team than last year. UT-Martin won’t be as good.

There is a script for the final five games. If the Vols win four and lose only to Georgia, good year, good things happen, happy holiday season, more buildings can be built and the coach gets a bonus. It could go either way. If what Missouri or South Carolina did in the transfer portal leads to more improvement than Tennessee achieves, duck, there is trouble ahead.

If Vanderbilt happened to … Don’t go there.

Marvin West welcomes comments or questions from readers. His address is marvinwest75@gmail.com.


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